The Novo-Tikhvin Women's Monastery
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Hand-painted icons by the sisters of the Monastery

A Trip to Beslan

The icon painted by the sisters of the monastery
The icon painted by the sisters of the monastery

"In Mozdok there is an Apostle for the mountaineers incomparable with any missioners: the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God to whom in great numbers come even the Muslim mountain-dwellers," -- wrote in 1858 the bishop of Caucasus and Chernomorye, Ignatiy (Bryanchaninov).

Today this wondrous Apostle is not to be found in Mozdok: the miracle-working icon given to the Osetians by the God-loving queen Tamara in the 13th century, disappeared at the time of the recent Church persecutions. Yet, preserved are the numerous copies of it made mainly in the later time, in the 18th-19th centuries. The inhabitants of Osetia deeply venerate this icon, considering it by right to be their protector.

The 1st of September, 2005.  In the gymnasium of the Beslan school.
The 1st of September, 2005. In the gymnasium of the Beslan school.

September 1st of 2004. Beslan. How is this wound to be healed? Yes, much has been undertaken; donations constantly flow here; two wonderfully equipped spacious schools are already built; compensations have been paid to the victims... But how to help those who cannot be comforted by human words, whose hearts are covered with the darkness of despair and who "dwell in anguish day and night"? There is the only medicine -- prayer, relying on the All-Good God, the Comforter. As an invocation to such a prayer, a Mozdok icon of the Mother of God for Osetia's inhabitants has been painted at the Novo-Tikhvinsky monastery of Ekaterinburg. The sisters themselves brought it to Beslan on September 1st of 2005. Nuns Devora and Valeria answer the questions of the "Church Herald."

CH: First of all, tell us, please, how the idea of creating this icon was born and how long was it being implemented.
Nun Devora, the leader of the icon-painting workshop: Right away I would like to specify that 2 icons have been painted and given as a gift. One will for sure stay in Beslan, and the second one will stay wherever bishop Theophan, the ruling archbishop of Stavrople eparchy would bless. Through the blessing of the spiritual father of our monastery, abbot Avraam, we started working on those two icons already in October of 2004. The painting of faces and robes took about a month. It had been decided to adorn the icons with stones, precious frameworks, and icon cases. This work took another 10 months. Two wonderful believing people who gave the means for the adorning of icons supported us in our undertaking -- Igor Altushkin, president of the Russian Copper Company and a Moscovite Margarita Chukanova.

Cross procession around the school
Cross procession around the school

CH: How did the handing over of the icon go?
Nun Valeria: We came to Beslan in the early morning of September 1st. Bishop Theophan was already waiting for us at the school building. People began to gather at the same time. Sister Devora spoke a brief word that we came by the blessing of our Ruling Archbishop of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Vikentiy, and we thank God for granting us the chance to visit this much-suffering land. Bishop Theophan replied that this gift is especially symbolic as coming from the Ural land which is also reddened with the blood of innocent sufferers, the holy Royal Passion-bearers. Several times he said that he considered the arrival of the icons to be very important: they are the visible connection between Osetia and Russia.

September 3rd.  The whole icon is in flowers
September 3rd. The whole icon is in flowers

Nun Devora: It is also remarkable that the handing in of the icon was the first link in the events of the three mourning days in Osetia. It were as if the Lady Theotokos willed this -- to be the first to come to the place of the tragedy. Only afterwards, when a small cross procession was completed, the icons were carried into the building, and people were let into the school. This is the way it was: the first thing a person would see having entered the gymnasium where the terrorist attack took place -- were the icons. People would pick up candles, place them by the icons, pray in front of them, and only later would they go further, by the perimeter of the gymnasium, mourning over those who perished here. And this is so right -- you see, it means that the people have come to God with their sorrow; they have turned the eyes of their minds to Him, have not fallen into despair, have not become embittered. Mother Nonna, the abbess of Epiphany Alansky monastery, who accompanied us everywhere through the blessing of bishop Theophan, said that the stay of the icons of the Mother of God in this gymnasium is highly providential. Who else could understand so deeply the weeping, disconsolate mothers, if not The Mother on Whose eyes Her Son and God was killed, and Who Herself suffered with indescriptible suffering?

By the icon
By the icon

CH: Yes, much is spoken about the grief of Beslan, but about Beslan praying -- almost nothing is said.
Nun Devora: In reality, now in Osetia there is a common spiritual raise, a strong thirst for faith is felt; a lot of people convert to Orthodoxy and are being baptized in dozens. Bishop Theophan now performs baptisms right in the lakes and mountain rivers. They call it the third baptism of Osetia.
Nun Valeria: Monasticism is regenerated, too. We were told that only recently the monastics here were looked upon with total lack of understanding; to become a monastic was considered a disgrace. Today it is completely different. For example, we ourselves felt that these people are waiting for special support namely from the eccelsiastic: the mourning mothers would come up to us, hug, and thank us. Sometimes they approached us with kind words right on the streets.

The distribution of akathyst books
The distribution of akathyst books

CH: In the media reports it has been announced that your monastery published an akathyst to the Mozdok icon of the Mother of God already during the winter. Have you brought it here on this trip?
Nun Valeria: Yes, we brought 300 issues to give away in Beslan, but we ran out of the books literally in 5 minutes; people would come up and ask for them, but we didn't have any more. We decided now to print more and to send them to Beslan. We ourselves read this akathyst in the ancient church of the Nativity of Theotokos in Hordzhin village. The church was built in the 12th century, and that's where the Mozdok icon stayed for 6 centuries. It is a place very much filled with grace -- one doesn't even want to leave. Honestly, we did not expect to see so many holy places, to meet so many like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ. There was some apprehension before the trip, but after the trip -- only gratitude to God for such pure, noble people.
Nun Devora: On the whole, probably, this was what struck us the most: amazing unanimity, love, and care. To say it in one word, we simply felt ourselves among dear Orthodox people.

See also Look the events Photoalbum

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All of the icons on the site are painted by the sisters of the monastery

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